Each morning I have my cup of tea on my back porch and give thanks—for the porch, the tea, the house, the life I’ve lived and the prospects before me. Sometimes I see a souvenir and remember a special trip. When I hike I’m thankful for nature in all its glory and for the people who save sections of wilderness so I and others can enjoy it. I’m deeply appreciative of the support I got—and get—from family and friends. I’m thankful that people with talents very different than mine create things I use every day. The food I eat was grown by someone else. I have no idea how to fix my car or my indoor plumbing but someone else does and I’m glad. Oh yes, I have indoor plumbing AND electricity. More gratitude.
This daily ritual helps me realize how much can be available for others. Being thankful connects me to a deep optimism and commitment to benefit all people. Why wouldn’t everyone have enough to eat? A place to call home that shelters and sustains them physically and psychically? What about education, health care, transportation, vacation, time and mental space to enjoy friends and family? How about meaningful work that pays the bills?
By appreciating my accomplishments, I marvel at the road behind me and, therefore, I find the road ahead more doable. Thus, gratitude fuels optimism and determination. It makes the work ahead—to share resources equitably, to recognize and use people’s talents and perspectives—not only desirable but possible through continued effort.
Activists are often motivated by righteous anger in response to inequity and oppression. I have that too. I notice my anger is like a fire that scorches—consuming me and maybe whatever target I thought I had. Often it just consumes me. It isn’t generative. It doesn’t make friends or allies, or come up with new ideas. Anger finds fault with what is, what’s proposed and who’s proposing it. It’s not that anger isn’t justified—as the bumper sticker says, “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.” It is merely inadequate. Fire may clear the field but gratitude waters the earth so it can regenerate, grow, and bear fruit.
Whether in personal, policy, or personnel matters criticizing and dismissing lets people know what’s wrong (to you) but doesn’t help them see or want to do what’s right. Perhaps they’ll lick their wounds or get determined to prove you wrong but that is battle, however polite.
Notice the difference in motivation, creativity, camaraderie, achievement, and pride in accomplishment when you begin with appreciation and gratitude. My own default is to criticize but I’ve learned that gratitude WORKS!! Try it yourself.
Start each day with a gratitude list.
End the day with a gratitude list.
End meetings by thanking people for their contributions to the meeting or project.
End meetings with participants appreciating teammates’ contribution to the success.
Have each person appreciate their own contribution.
What impact do you see after a week? After a month?